Remember when you got that pet fox after seeing The Fox and the Hound and loved it so much until it made a habit of pooping in your shoes and sitting on your chest like an incubus while you slept, weighing a death strike at your vulnerable throat against the prospect of more dry cat food, and the day finally came when you just couldn't take it anymore and drove the fox out to the woods so it could live free, though what it really did was die a horribly violent death because it never learned how to hunt for itself? That exact same thing is happening with owls on a wide-scale in the U.K., largely thanks to Harry Potter fans who just can't buy enough merchandise to satiate their fanhood.
According to the Mirror and the spoonful of salt necessary to digest any of its stories, hundreds of pet owls have been abandoned in the wake of the Harry Potter by fans who thought what they really wanted in their lives was a large-winged raptor that ideally needs to live in a 20-foot aviary so that it can flap its wings five times before landing on its perch (otherwise, it can develop a chest infection). Now that the wizard craze has given way to the harsh realities of modern life, owl owners are finding that they don't want the 20-plus year responsibility of looking after an expensive bird of prey that can't even deliver calligraphic messages properly. Sanctuaries are rapidly filling up with discarded owls and some ornithologists fear that hundreds of owls have been illegally released into the wild, where they'll inevitably starve to death for want of preying skills.
It's perfectly legal to own an owl in the U.K. without a license, but anyone caught releasing one of the birds into the wild faces a £5,000 fine and six months in Azkaban. The problem has apparently become so pervasive that J.K. Rowling has made a direct appeal to fans "influenced" by her books not to take on a pet owl that they're not prepared to care for. She's said, "If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can, ‘you are wrong'."
Something similar to the owl craze happened during the 90s, when hundreds of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans got pet turtles and subsequently dumped them into British rivers after realizing that turtles don't grow into human-sized stoner friends who will totally skateboard and split pizzas with you.